PASADENA, CA – A young dance duo, one from Elizabeth, the other Linden, received a standing ovation after their Salsa performance on America’s Got Talent, which aired on June 3, moving them along toward the $1 million grand prize.
Simon, 12, and Maria, 10, have been dancing together for two years. Both began lessons at Quimbara Dance Studio in Elizabeth and instructors there put them together as a duo. “We met at our dance studio and automatically clicked,” said Simon. Both dancers were born in Columbia. Simon lived in Medellin; Maria in Cali, and both came to the United States at a young age.
Maria said the couple competed in the World Salsa Summit in Miami in January 2020 and took home first place. Afterwards, producers from America’s Got Talent called and asked them to audition for the show.
Simon is a sixth-grader at McManus Middle School in Linden. Maria is in fourth grade at Terence C. Reilly School in Elizabeth. They regularly attend dance lessons together and in separate groups at Quimbara.
After their audition, Simon and Maria were invited to compete on the show and flew with their fathers to Pasadena, CA. About performing on the show in front of the judges and a live studio audience, Maria said, “at first I felt really nervous, but then once we started dancing, I became more calm and excited. I felt like we were alone there on the stage.”
“When the cameras weren’t rolling, I was super nervous,” said Simon, “but once we met the judges and started dancing, we were just doing something we both loved.” Simon said the Salsa was the first dance he and Maria ever performed as a duo.
After their performance and standing ovation from the judges and audience, all four judges (Simon Cowell, Sofia Vergara, Howie Mandel, and Heidi Klum) unanimously voted for Maria and Simon to move on to the next level.
“I love your faces,” said fellow Columbia native Vergara to the duo. “I love how much you’re into the dance. It was fantastic to watch you. You have so much energy, and I love the song you picked.”
“I could tell how much time you spent rehearsing,” said Cowell. “You have an amazing chemistry together. I think our audience will fall in love with you.”
“There’s a lot of hours of training in order to do what you do,” said Klum. “I found you guys super entertaining.”
“You can’t ask for anything more than making someone smile and happy,” sand Mandel. “You guys are a ray of sunshine. I think you’re amazing.”
About her experience on the show and trip to California, Maria said, “it was a great opportunity for us to improve our dancing and dance on stage. And we got to do some sightseeing.”
“The experience of the trip was super cool,” said Simon. “It’s been a dream since I was a tiny kid to be on a big show like that. We got to meet all the judges, who were super nice as well.”
“I would love to pursue dancing a career or side job,” said Simon of his future. “I just love dancing.” Maria’s future plans include becoming a professional dancer or a dance teacher. “I think it would be fun to teach others this type of dance.”
Simon and Maria will compete again on America’s Got Talent for a chance to compete live on television with voting by the show viewers.